Bloomberg: Iran is continuing to supply arms to Iraqi Shiite militias that attack U.S. forces in Iraq, violating a commitment from Iranian leaders to halt such shipments, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
By Ken Fireman and Tony Capaccio
April 25 (Bloomberg) — Iran is continuing to supply arms to Iraqi Shiite militias that attack U.S. forces in Iraq, violating a commitment from Iranian leaders to halt such shipments, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
U.S. forces in Iraq have found caches containing Iranian- made weapons that were "recently manufactured," Mullen told a Pentagon news conference. He declined to be more specific about when the weapons were produced.
Mullen said the discoveries have convinced him and other U.S. military officials that Iran is a "lethal and malign" influence in Iraq and isn't keeping its pledge to end such activities. "Action certainly speaks louder than words," he said.
Iran has "expressed long-term goals to be the regional power" in the Middle East and would "prefer to see a weak Iraq neighbor," he said.
Mullen's remarks are the latest this month from senior U.S. military officials to highlight Iran's support of Shiite Muslim militia groups. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in congressional testimony that Iranian-backed militia groups are the greatest long-term threat to stability.
So-called special groups, funded, trained and armed by Iran, played a "destructive role" in the recent clashes between extremist militias and Iraqi government forces in Basra and Baghdad, Petraeus told the House Armed Services Committee April 9. U.S. officials have said that Iran also supplied the rockets fired into Baghdad's Green Zone.
'Not Just Weapons'
Mullen said he has seen no evidence of "massive increases" in Iranian arms flow to Iraqi militia.
"I would characterize it as consistent with what they have done — over time, not just in the last few weeks, but over the last couple of the years," Mullen said. "And it's not just weapons" but training and broad support for other terrorist groups in the region, he said.
Iranian leaders said they "were committed to decreasing support," but "I just don't see any evidence of them backing off and Basra highlighted a lot of it," Mullen said.
Iran's leaders have denied their government has shipped weapons into Iraq or trained Shiite militias there. Mullen today said he had no "smoking gun" proof of their complicity.
Still, "the Iranian government pledged to halt such activities just some months ago," he said. "It's plainly obvious they have not. Indeed they seem to have gone the other way."
'Diplomatic, Financial Pressure'
Mullen said the best way to thwart Iranian influence in Iraq is through "diplomatic, financial and international pressure."
He said he had "no expectations" of a conflict with Iran "in the immediate future," and that a third conflict in the Middle East would be "extremely stressing" for U.S. forces.
Still, he said, "no military options" are "off the table," and it would be "a mistake" to think the U.S. is "out of combat power."
"I have reserve capability, in particularly our Navy and our Air Force, not just there, but available globally," Mullen said. "There are lots of potential military courses of action."